Cold hands, warm heart

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The cold wind whips into your face as you start your journey. It’s easy when the wind is at your back, but as you move forward, the wind shifts and it stings your eyes and your skin, slowing you to a trudge.

You hop around the street and sidewalk, careful not to slip as you make your journey. You are not even sure where you are going, but you soldier onwards, trying to keep your head held high, hoping to see a familiar face, someone who might lend you a hand without belittling you.

After a few hours, you realize it isn’t going to happen, and the sun is going down. You reach into your pocket where you find the $78 you have left and wander into a coffee shop to buy a cup of coffee to warm you up.

Your stomach, growling for sustenance, receives hot liquid to satisfy it for a moment as your face thaws. Night is here, and this shop will close soon. Pitying and judging looks are noticeable after finishing the coffee as everyone can see that you are not a student, and you are not a business owner doing work, and you are not there for the band. You are there because you have nowhere else to go.

Your bag is stuffed to the brim, because these are the only personal belongings you have left. No cell phone; that bill has long since gone unpaid and your phone shut off. No laptop; you already pawned that for money for food. Just this coffee and your bag.

You hear music teasing from down the block, and knowing that the shop is closing soon, you pick up your bag, put your tattered mittens back on and wander down the street to the bar where it is busy, and you can sit in the back, left alone for a few hours.

But they will close too, and you still don’t know where you will stay the rest of the night.

When the cold becomes too cruel, the region’s homeless shelters begin to fill, and eventually find themselves growing into their lobbies at night to give the city’s silent, forgotten homeless population a place to stay when the temperature dips to deadly temperatures.

The shuffle from place to place does not work as well when one can not risk being left out in the below-zero cold.

Many people take in and provide transport and shelter for animals left outside or neglected by neighbors, or make sure that the animals are taken to a shelter. It is easy to take in an animal since they are fuzzy and cute and grateful.

Neither humans nor animals should be left outside, exposed in below freezing weather.

There are many people and companies that are doing their part to help those in need this winter. Follow “Center for the Homeless” and “Hope Ministries – South Bend, IN” on Facebook to see what local businesses are sponsoring events or promotions for the shelters and what they are most in need of currently.

If you can spare the time, money, or supplies there are many who have fallen on tough times who could use all the help they can get. For shelter needs, “like” “Pet Refuge” and “Humane Society of St. Joseph County” on Facebook to get updates on current needs for our furry friends. If you see animals being intentionally left out in dangerous temperatures, always know you can call South Bend Animal Care and Control to report mistreatment of animals at 574-235-9303.

The cold weather increases the need for community solidarity and awareness! Nobody deserves to be left out in the cold.

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